garden

Hunting for autumn colour in Sussex and Surrey

Since we moved to East Sussex from Oxford two years ago, I have been on the look out for the best places to find autumn colour, and more specifically, Acers. Acer leaves are my favourite thing to photograph in the autumn - there's something so pleasing and special about their shape and the huge range of colours they display as the season moves on. The best collection of Acers I have ever found is at Westonbirt Arboretum. However, this is now quite a trek for us and most certainly not a day trip anymore. So I've been on the lookout for the best Acer collections closer to home....

Winkworth Arboretum

This year, we visited Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey (The National Trust's only arboretum) for the first time and I wasn't disappointed, even though we were probably a couple of weeks away from the peak colour. It was blissfully quiet as we visited on a week day and I'm sure this considerably added to my enjoyment!

Winkworth is a large place, so be prepared for lots of walking, some of it steep. The visitors map suggests three different routes - we opted for the "Challenging walk" with steep steps of approx. 3.6km that took in most of the arboretum. We soon strayed off track, though, as I got distracted by the leaves, so I'm not sure how much of this we completed. There's also an accessible 1km route with no steps, and a shorter "taste of" walk that is 1.6km.

For us, it was definitely a whole day trip (but bear in mind there are frequent stops for photography - I can spend a LONG time with my head and camera stuck in a single beautiful tree!) and I'm very glad we took a packed lunch with us. There is a small cafe, but the lunch options are limited and it's located at the entrance, so it's quite a trek to get back there.

Since adopting our rescue dog, Misty, one of our additional requirements this year was to find places that allowed dogs to visit. Quite a challenge, it seems! A big tick in the box for Winkworth, though, even if the "short lead" rule seemed a little unnecessary.

I think Misty enjoyed the trip, but got rather impatient with our frequent photography stops! With such a beautiful backdrop, I just had to attempt some portraits. I had grand visions of some beautiful shallow depth of field shots of Misty, with leaves gently falling around her. Reality, however, didn't quite match-up.... Photographing pets is clearly an art form and I have a lot to learn. We had fun, though!

I also got a little obsessed with photographing the seed pods. I love the bright pop of red that really catches the light. Such a brilliant distribution system!

All in all, a thoroughly lovely visit - I look forward to returning next year!

Sheffield Park and Garden

I think the best place for autumn colour and Acers close to home, has to be the National Trust's Sheffield Park and Garden in East Sussex. It really comes alive in the autumn. But with it, of course, come large visitor numbers. If you can, I would try and get there for opening time on a week day. Unfortunately we were restricted to visiting after 1.30pm as this is the only time you are allowed to take dogs in the garden. We visited a couple of times this year, once on a Friday (busy, but still pleasant) and once on a Sunday (jam-packed, noisy and very hard to get much photography in without other people in your shot!).  Still worth it, though, as it's a stunning place with a beautiful Acer collection and one I will most definitely return to next year.

My lens of choice for autumn photography is my 100mm macro lens as it allows me to get nice and close with a decent background blur (and also a good way of avoiding other people in your shots!). All the photos in this post were taken on my macro lens.  One thing I love to do is to try and line up a contrasting colour as the background for my leaf shots - for me, the background is what makes or breaks the shot.

If you'd like to read more about autumn photography you might like my Photo tips: capturing autumn/fall colour post.

One of the great things about Sheffield Park is that there is a lot of concentrated autumn colour in a relatively small space, so you don't have to walk far to take in a lot of beauty. But I guess that's the reason it's so popular and busy....


Other places to visit

Do you have any suggestions for other places to visit for autumn colour not far from East Sussex? I'd love to hear them. Other places I've visited include:

  • Nymans - a beautiful place, but best in the spring and summer I think - there was a little autumn colour, but nothing substantial. Plus, no dogs allowed in the garden.
  • Standen House and Garden - I was very disappointed when I visited here last autumn - hardly anything to see - so I haven't returned since.
  • Wakehurst Place - I love it here and there are quite a few Acers as I recall, but sadly no dogs are allowed, so we haven't visited recently.

West Dean Gardens revisited

I was very fortunate to visit the beautiful West Dean Gardens near Chichester, West Sussex, for the second time last month (you can read about my first visit in West Dean Gardens through my macro lens). They are an independent charity (NOT National Trust) and the site is also home to West Dean College, which offers courses in creative arts and conservation, including lots of interesting gardening ones.

Dogs on short leads are welcome, which is fantastic, as it meant our recently adopted dog, Misty, could come with us. There is a lovely cafe/restaurant and some very picturesque seating areas if you want to bring your own picnic. We spent the whole day here and still didn't manage to see everything!

The gardens are huge - there are 100 acres of garden and parkland in total, including a 50 acre arboretum. My absolute favourite part is the walled cutting garden and the 13 Victorian glasshouses. I visited with my family and am very lucky that we are all (mostly) keen photographers, so stopping every minute or so to marvel and snap away was no problem. I even got to do one circuit with my macro lens, and then a second with my 50mm f1.4 lens and my sister :)

So let's start with the cutting garden shall we? An absolute riot of colour and full of bees and butterflies. Hard to pick favourites, but I fell in love with cold frame (above) full of succulents and a marvellous Geranium collection outside. And the Larkspur and Cosmos and Cornflowers and Nigella and Dahlias and.....

Beautiful isn't it? Shall we move on to the glasshouses now.... First up, is one entirely devoted to Geraniums and Fuchsias in every shade of pink and red you can imagine. Just divine!

And just next door is the potting shed, full of old tools and books and the prettiest cut flowers from the garden.

And next up another huge favourite of mine - the fern glasshouse. An absolute dream! I would have loved to have spent some time in here with my sketchbook. The details on the leaves are just incredible...

There are several tropical collections as well. I think this guy was from one of those...

The fruit and veg glasshouses are inspirational too. And now on my wish list ;) There were an abundance of chillies in every colour, size and shape imaginable as we visited shortly before the chilli fiesta started.

I hope you're not bored yet? Apologies for the picture heavy post, but there's so much to see!

I also loved the kitchen gardens, right next to the cutting garden and bursting full of healthy, colourful looking veggies and, of course, lots of flowers. The Californian Poppies are just so cheerful.

And I must just mention the incredible pergola, designed by Harold Peto in 1911 and restored after the 1987 storm. It's 300 foot long and wrapped in the most beautiful climbing plants. The Roses and Clematis were blooming when we visited and provided a lovely pop of colour. I can't imagine how much work must have gone into this and all the careful training and pruning. I'm in awe!

So that's it for now - well done if you made it to the end! I really hope I get to return soon - there's still so much we haven't seen.

For more information or to plan your visit, see the West Dean Gardens website.

If you'd like to see more photos, head over to my West Dean Gardens Flickr Album - or you can click through the embedded album below.

West Dean Gardens, Chichester

Monk's House: the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Monk's House, the home (and garden) of Virginia and Leonard Woolf is located in the small and very picturesque village of Rodmell in East Sussex. I feel extremely fortunate to have this gem of a place not far from where I live - and I have no idea why it took me so long to visit. Virginia Woolf was the subject of my final year dissertation at University (a couple of decades ago!) so it felt extremely special and slightly unreal to be able to literally tread in her footsteps and imagine her living there.

Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

I was equally enchanted by the garden as well as the 17th century cottage. It was clear that this was a very important space for the Woolfs and a source of inspiration for Virginia's writing. We visited at the beginning of May and I plan to return many times to see it bloom throughout the seasons.

I loved the colour scheme running through the garden - the pinks, purples and whites of the elegant tulips worked so beautifully with the Magnolia, which we were lucky to catch in bloom.

Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

It was fascinating to visit the writing lodge in the garden and look out over the views of the South Downs that Virginia would have stared at, whilst she wrote. The garden is such a tranquil space in a perfect location - very easy to see why the Woolfs fell so much in love with it. It was grey and wet when we visited, but still so very beautiful.

The house is full of books and artwork and many other collections owned by the Woolfs. It has a very relaxed and lived in feel. It was a pleasure to chat to the very knowledgeable staff, who had many interesting tales to tell. You are also allowed to take photographs, which was very welcome indeed. I'll only share a few snippets, as I don't want to spoil it all for you.

I loved seeing vases full of fresh flowers from the garden all around the house.

I really enjoyed tiptoeing around Virginia's bedroom, the lightest room of the house, with the most amazing views of the garden.

Talking of the garden, let's return for a little more spring colour - very welcome on this grey summer's day in the UK!

And just to prove it wasn't all about the pinks, purples and whites, here is a little more vibrant colour. I just adore the shape of these tulips - so elegant. I used a combination of my 100mm f2.8 macro lens and my 50mm f1.4 lens to capture these photos.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit when in Sussex, I highly recommend it. It's just a short drive from Lewes, another wonderful place to explore. There are lots of events at Monk's House too, including some photography workshops - I hope I get the chance to attend some of these.

I'll leave you with a few shots from the pretty village of Rodmell - so many beautiful cottages - well worth a wander whilst you are there.


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Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

Pashley Manor Gardens Tulip Festival

I know summer is blooming all around us, but I would love to take you back to springtime for just a little while.... If you're a fan of tulips, then you would love the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor Gardens - imagine 30,000 tulips (with over 100 different varieties) set in a beautiful garden on the border of East Sussex and Kent.

The festival ran from 22 April - 07 May this year (2016) and cost £10.50. This time I visited on a weekend and it was very busy, which made photography a little more challenging, as it was almost impossible to get a shot without someone in it! If you can, I would strongly recommend visiting on a week day - we visited the day before it opened last year as part of a staycation, and it was much more relaxed. But still 100% worth a visit, busyness and all.

The tulips are planted/arranged by colour and the complementary planting was just as beautiful. I'm a big fan of pink (no surprises there!), so let's start with those.

The tulips are all really clearly labelled, which is brilliant if you are looking for some inspiration for which tulips to plant in your garden - just remember to bring a notebook - or photograph the labels, as there are far too many to remember. You can even order the bulbs at the festival, whilst admiring a beautiful cut flower display (wish I'd left enough time to photograph this!).

If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Tulipa Angelique, which reminded me of peonies, but the tall slender West Point tulips (further below, in yellow) came a very close second.

Whilst the tulips were mostly planted in colour blocks, I loved the subtle combinations and two tone varieties, especially these ones.

I had the pleasure of visiting with my sister this year, another avid photographer, so we happily pottered around at snail's pace. We managed at least two circuits of most of the garden - one with my 100mm macro lens (my floral photography lens of choice) and the other with my 50mm f1.4 lens, to capture a few wider shots. Happily there are plenty of places to sit and rest your weary legs along the way - all very pretty too, so the perfect place for a few portraits. And I must just mention the cake! Food and drink are served on the verandah by the manor house and I was very impressed to see a selection of gluten free cakes.

Another beautiful place to sit is by the pool. You could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the mediterranean (except perhaps for the temperatures!). Throughout the garden you will find lots of perfectly placed sculptures, all leading the eye to lovely viewpoints or planting. I think my favourites were the ones by the pool.

I loved this sculpture too - looking out to a beautiful Magnolia on one side, with the most amazing Wisteria behind it. I would love to have returned a bit later to see it in bloom - it looked like it had been trained in beautiful loops all up the wall of the house.

Although we were there to see the tulips, one of my favourite places was the glass house (of my dreams!). I'm currently rather obsessed with Geraniums and succulents, so this was heaven for me :)

And finally, we should return to the tulips! Let's finish with a little more colour for good measure.

A familiar sight, amongst the tulips - you'll spend much of your time avoiding all the other photographers and visitors, so using a shallow depth of field can be very helpful to blur out distractions. This is my sister, though, so this one was intentional (and I'll forgive her for getting in the way!).

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and would love to return next year. There are also several other events throughout the summer - the special rose week is on this week - so hopefully I'll manage to return. You can read about my visit last year or see more photos on Flickr below if you fancy.

Pashley Manor Gardens

Do you have a favourite spot to visit for tulips or spring flowers? I'd love to hear - I'm always on the look out for lovely new places to visit.

Autumn colour at Westonbirt Arboretum

Have you ever visited Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury, Gloucestershire? If not, I can highly recommend it - most definitely one of our national treasures. It is ablaze with colour in the autumn and has the most extensive and beautiful collection of Acers I have ever seen. It's become something of a birthday tradition for me to visit - luckily for me, my birthday tends to fall at the peak of the colour :)

Despite moving to the coast, I couldn't miss out - Westonbirt in the autumn really is one of my all time favourite things to do. So this year, we made a little mini-break of it and stayed a few nights in Lacock, a very pretty village in the care of the National Trust, about 30-40 minutes away. We enjoyed visiting Lacock Abbey and its beautiful grounds. We also managed to fit in a visit to Bath on a rainy Saturday, and a leisurely visit to Courts Garden. We found Lacock the perfect base - considerably cheaper than staying in Bath and very well located for Westonbirt. If you do plan a visit to Westonbirt next year, it is so much better to visit on a week day if this is at all possible - it gets very busy in the autumn and the car parks get jam packed on weekends.

I make no apologies for the amount of photos in this post! We spent a very happy day wandering around Westonbirt, and believe me, I can take a LOT of photos in a day ;) It's a very popular place for photographers, so you will sometimes find yourself elbow to elbow with fellow snappers. I remember smiling to myself as I took these photos - I think there were about 8 or so other women around me, with their heads in the trees and cameras glued to their eyes and it was completely silent - apart from the sound of shutters.....

Westonbirt is HUGE. It is split into two parts - the old arboretum, and the new arboretum. My favourite part is the acer glade in the old arboretum - but there are so many paths and collections and Acers everywhere - so it's very easy to get lost. But lost in a good way! Dogs are only allowed in the new arboretum, which is vast - perfect for long walks. You'll find a greater variety of trees there, but still a good smattering of Acers (did I mention I adore Acers?!!).

The colour seemed especially good this year and I found myself drawn to the reds like a moth to a flame. The beautiful leaves make a wonderful background as well as a foreground.

If you're interested in the lenses and settings I used to capture these photos, you might like to take a look at my recent post: Photo tips: capturing autumn / fall colour.

And just to prove it's not all about the reds, here are a few other colours I managed to capture :)

And finally, I just had to include a few favourites from my visit to the very beautiful Courts Garden. We got there early, before it opened, so enjoyed a lovely walk from Courts to Great Chalfield Manor and back. And ended our visit the perfect way, by stumbling across a super lovely cafe nearby called the Old Glove Factory - bright, light and spacious with delicious food and comfy chairs for reading the papers. Oh, and superfast wifi. A most happy Sunday indeed :)

These giant heart shaped leaves came from a vine - just amazing!

Heart shaped leaf at Courts Garden

We were even treated to a few bursts of sunshine whilst we were there - most welcome indeed, after a very grey weekend.

Next to Acers, I think these gorgeous giant leaves from the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) have to be my absolute favourite. They really are a perfect tulip shape. I spent rather a long time playing with these, alongside the toddlers ;) If you'd like to see a few more, have a look at my video on Instagram - but I warn you, it's a bit spinny, spinny!

A bunch of yellow Tulip Tree leaves (Liriodendron tulipifera) from Courts Garden

You'll be relieved to know that's it from me (for now) - well done on reaching the end!

I'm shortly off on a lovely break away somewhere with no wifi, phone signal or tv - bliss! So things will be a bit quiet on here for a while - but I promise to return with plenty more tales and photos.

West Dean Gardens through my macro lens

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful West Dean Gardens (near Chichester, West Sussex) with my family last weekend. Luckily for me, we are all keen photographers, so dawdling along at a snails pace to allow hundreds of photos to be taken was permitted without (much) complaining! The site is huge (90 acres) - there is so much to see and explore. I'm already planning my return visit!

I was particularly enthralled by the cutting garden and the 13 victorian glasshouses, which have been beautifully restored. I fell in love with a new (to me) flower - Larkspur - and am already hatching plans to plant a swathe of these in our garden. Larkspur is essentially an annual Delphinium and comes in blue/purple, pink and white (the ones pictured are Larkspur Sublime I think). Apparently it is easy to grow as it self seeds - finger's crossed!

The Larkspur had been planted next to some Cosmos, another firm favourite of mine. All that frothy foliage provides the perfect backdrop.

There was colour across the spectrum in the cutting garden, but I always gravitate to purples/pinks and whites (sorry to the yellow lovers amongst you!). There were butterflies and bees everywhere, including clouds of Cabbage Whites - so pretty to watch!

I absolutely loved the wild meadow bed at the end of the garden, tucked away behind the glasshouses - I much prefer my gardens wild and rambling. Must try and introduce some poppies next year!

The beautiful victorian glass houses offered incredible variety, from temperate to tropical, ferns to flowers, fruit to vegetables.

I was fascinated by these climbing ferns...

And I loved the potting shed, filled with vintage gardening paraphernalia... 

And then we have the chillies - 250 varieties of them! I had no idea there were so many... All the different shapes and sizes were laid out and labelled for visitors to look at and there were several glasshouses full of them, along with other vegetables. Very inspiring to see what is possible. 

I loved being able to see the lifecycle of vegetables growing and discovering new varieties - I might even have to have a go myself next year! And a beautiful glass house is of course now on my wish list ;)

The fruit was amazing too. The walled fruit garden housed many, many apple and pear trees, shaped in different ways. And the glass houses were filled with figs and melons and grapes - the vines were quite incredible. It was hard to believe we were in the UK!

And flowers mixed with fruit, is always a good thing. There were beds bursting with flowers throughout the walled fruit garden (with a surprisingly lovely purple and yellow colour theme) and even in the entrance.

And now onto the kitchen gardens. A mighty fine display of vegetables in prime condition. I love my greens and was very tempted to take some of these home with me!

Red Chard West Dean Gardens.jpg
Yellow_Chard_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

The grounds at West Dean are very extensive and perfect for a picnic lunch. We found an empty table and chairs on the picturesque picnic lawn and ate our lunch under a giant willow tree overlooking parkland with grazing sheep (no decent pictures I'm afraid as I was too busy eating at this point!). They also have a lovely restaurant with seasonal dishes.

After spending most of our time in the cutting, fruit & vegetable gardens and the glasshouses, we thought we should explore a little of the rest of the grounds....

We were serenaded in the sunken garden by a couple of talented musicians, before wandering through a rather spectacular 300 foot long pergola, wrapped in the loveliest selection of climbing plants.

Pergola_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

It made a lovely backdrop for some portraits. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I even managed to get a rare photo of my husband and I without camera rucksacks or cameras dangling from our necks!

After the pergola, we had a lovely walk through the spring garden, but rather ran out of time and energy to explore the rest of the grounds. I'll have to see the Arboretum on my next visit... Dogs are welcomed on short leads, so when we finally manage to get our furry friend, this would be a perfect place to come.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the Echinaceas from what I think was the spring garden.

Echinacea_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

Apologies for a rather picture heavy post - but believe me, I barely even scratched the surface of the gardens! I can highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near West Sussex - find out more on the West Dean Gardens website.


I've add a few of my favourite floral images to my Red Bubble Shop in case you are interested - they make rather lovely greeting cards and postcards. Also available as fine art prints, phone cases, bags, pouches, notebooks and more :)


10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon

I've just returned from a lovely week away in North Devon and thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite spots to visit, along with some of my photographs. I'm lucky to now have both my sister and my dad living in Devon, so I've got to know the area reasonably well over the years. My top 10 is as follows (in no particular order, apart from the first two) - read on for more info:

  1. Westward Ho!

  2. Saunton Sands

  3. Putsborough Beach (Woolacombe)

  4. Hartland and Welcombe Mouth

  5. Sandymouth and Northcott Mouth

  6. Watersmeet

  7. Donna Flower's Vintage Shop in Barnstaple

  8. Appledore

  9. Clovelly

  10. RHS Rosemoor Garden

10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon

1. Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! (with it's jolly exclamation mark - the only town in the UK to have one) has become my new favourite beach in Devon. When the tide is out there are huge stretches of sand and so much S P A C E. There is often a thin film of water on the sand which provides some beautiful reflections of the clouds, making the space look even bigger. There are beautiful sand dunes (Northam Burrows) and beautiful giant pebbles (originating from Hartland I believe and smoothed and tumbled by the sea to end up here). It's a popular beach with surfers and dog walkers. I recommend parking at Northam Burrows for access to the best bit of the beach. It cost us £3.50 for the day in June (you can also get weekly and seasonal passes).

It's one of those places that looks so different every time you visit, depending on the tide and the weather - it's quite literally a reflection of the world around us. Even on the evening we visited (after a scorcher of a day with a cloudless sky) the view kept shifting and changing with the clouds and the light - and what magical light it was!

We had so much fun strolling up and down the beach, splashing in the waves and just drinking it all in. So many people were out and about enjoying the perfect evening, cooling off after a hot day. I loved the soft sinking sand that left deep footprints as you walked - I turn into a big kid on the beach!

On another visit, we spent some time nestling in the dunes, sheltering from the wind. And pebble hunting, of course! The pebbles here have beautiful white rings and lines. There is nothing more joyful than holding smooth warm pebbles in your hands with the sun on your face and the sand in your feet. Oh yes, it's most definitely the simple things in life for me!

Pebbles from Westward Ho! and Sandymouth beach

Pebbles from Westward Ho! and Sandymouth beach

And finally, I must just mention the beach huts. You can find a small row of pretty pastel huts at the end of the beach where all the shops and restaurants are. They never fail to make me smile!


2. Saunton Sands

Next on the list has to be Saunton Sands. It held the no.1 spot in my heart for many years and has only just been pipped at the post by Westward Ho! It's just round the corner really from Westward Ho! (although it's about a 40 minute drive as you have to go round the estuary) and shares many similarities. There's always huge stretches of sand to be found, even at high tide. I just love the S P A C E (bit of a theme?!) and the energy this beach has - there are always surfers to be found and lots of dog walkers and families and people generally having fun. There are some cafes, a posh hotel, surf board hire/lessons and deckchairs/beach huts to hire for the day. And parking will set you back £6.50 - at least it did in June 2015!

Saunton Sands is also great for reflections as it usually has a thin film of water covering a large stretch of sand - just add some clouds - and voila! These photos are from a visit several years ago. When we visited this time it was a scorching hot day with no clouds so it wasn't very photogenic - and we were so hot we actually had to leave!! Unheard of in Britain!

The sand dunes (Braunton Burrows) are beautiful too - and vast! You could walk for hours - in fact we once did, as my sister took us on a "short cut" to the beach that had us getting lost for hours (the best kind of fun)...... You can find lots more photos in my Saunton Sands album on Flickr.


3. Putsborough BEach (Woolacombe)

Putsborough beach is round the corner again from Saunton Sands, just past Croyde - Woolacombe is the opposite end. It's another lovely big stretch of sand with some interesting rocks and a cafe I like to hole up in when the weather is colder. Also popular with surfers. There are lots of facilities at the Woolacombe end (which gets very busy).


4. Hartland and Welcombe Mouth

Hartland is wild and rugged. Huge jagged rocks that you can imagine ships smashing into in times gone past. I don't actually have any photos of Hartland itself to share here -  every time we've visited it's been very grey and stormy. I absolutely love it, though. It's quite a long drive down narrow roads and you really feel "away from it all". There are some lovely walks you can do in this area. We did the circular walk from Hartland Quay to Spekes Mill waterfall and Docton Mill Gardens and back - lots of rugged coastline and pretty leafy green lanes. The heavens opened and we got soaked on the way round, but I still loved it. I will take wild and peaceful over hot, busy and crowded any day! You can find out more info at hartlandpeninsula.co.uk.

The beautiful Hartland Abbey and Gardens is also worth a visit - I've enjoyed bluebell walks in the spring and remember lots of colourful camellias, rhododendrons, and magnolias everywhere.

I do have some photos of Welcome Mouth, however. It is a beautiful beach really tucked away down super narrow country lanes (the kind you breathe in as you drive through!), a bit of a drive from Hartland Quay. As it is so hard to get to, and there are no facilities, it is usually very quiet. We came here on a landscape photography course several years back and had fun playing around with long exposures as the tide came in. The rocks here are similar to Hartland and remind me of backbones.

WelcombeMouth-2063.jpg

5. Sandymouth and Northcott Mouth

OK, so Sandymouth isn't in Devon, so I'm stretching things a little. But it is just over the border in North Cornwall (just North of Bude) and SO worth a visit if you are in the area. It has a very special place in my heart. Sandymouth is in the care of the National Trust who run the car park and a rather lovely cafe. The beach has large stretches of beautiful sand when the tide is out, and beautiful pebbles, similar to those you will find at Westward Ho! (spotting a pattern here?!). The cliffs are stunning and the rocks fascinating. You will find lots of similarities to the Hartland Peninsula, which isn't far away. It's also hugely popular with surfers (there is seasonal lifeguard cover) and dog walkers (you can walk dogs year round). It offers huge variety in terms of landscape and I love how different it always looks on the many visits I have made here.

This is the view from the outside seating area at Sandymouth cafe, looking down on the beach - not a bad spot for lunch!

This is the view from the outside seating area at Sandymouth cafe, looking down on the beach - not a bad spot for lunch!

The backbone type rocks at Sandymouth were covered in green seaweed this visit - looking very colourful!

The backbone type rocks at Sandymouth were covered in green seaweed this visit - looking very colourful!

Fun with pebbles at Sandymouth beach

Fun with pebbles at Sandymouth beach

This visit, we did the short (1 mile-ish) cliff path walk to Northcott Mouth and back. It's a beautiful walk with lovely coastal views, as well as views inland over patchwork fields. Northcott Mouth is another lovely beach, smaller than Sandymouth. There is also a tea garden there, filled with gnomes and all manner of garden statues :)

Northcott Mouth beach

Northcott Mouth beach


6. Watersmeet

Watersmeet is a beautiful woodland area in Lynmouth with lots of lovely walks alongside rivers and streams and waterfalls. It is the meeting place of the East Lyn river and Hoar Oak Water. It is in the care of the National Trust, who run a perfectly situated cafe right by the water. I love coming here for a good dose of green and peace and quiet and always come back feeling refreshed and restored. The walk from Lynmouth is particularly lovely. There are lots of other things to do in nearby Lynton and Lynmouth too - see www.visitlyntonandlynmouth.com for more information.

The National Trust cafe at Watersmeet

The National Trust cafe at Watersmeet

Watersmeet is another great spot for long exposure photography - bring your tripod (there's not much light under the canopy of trees) - and your wellies!

Watersmeet is another great spot for long exposure photography - bring your tripod (there's not much light under the canopy of trees) - and your wellies!


7. Donna Flower's Vintage Shop in Barnstaple

Whilst I adore being outdoors, it's always wise to have some indoor things planned for wet weather, because, let's face it, it's going to rain at some point ;)

If you like vintage clothes, fabrics and other paraphernalia then you will LOVE Donna Flower's vintage shop in Barnstaple. It's packed full of beautifully curated collections of good quality vintage clothing and accessories and hard to find vintage fabrics and sewing paraphernalia. Everything is displayed so beautifully and the ever changing window displays are pretty special. Donna has sourced lots of beautiful wooden display cabinets and drawers, all very swoon-worthy. She runs the shop with her daughter, Jasmine. You really must pay a visit!


8. Appledore

Appledore is a small fishing village near Westward Ho! and Bideford, across the water from Instow. You will find lots of narrow cobbled streets lined with bunting and pretty pastel houses with beautiful flowers everywhere. There are a few cafes and art galleries and antique shops to nosey around. You can also go on boat trips from the quay and enjoy many other watersports. The attraction for me, of course, was the pretty pastel houses - I do love strolling around quaint streets marvelling at people's pretty houses and gardens!


9. Clovelly

Clovelly is a private village, with steep cobbled streets leading down to a harbour. There are no cars and you have to pay an admission fee to enter, to help towards the upkeep of the historical buildings. It's very pretty - I loved photographing all the doors and flowers. There are some beautiful gardens and lovely walks and boat trips and donkey rides, if that is your thing!


10. RHS Rosemoor

I couldn't complete this list without mentioning at least one garden! As you will probably have gathered, I adore the coast, so my trips usually focus around visiting as many beaches as possible. I do love a good garden, though, and Rosemoor doesn't disappoint. It is one of four RHS gardens and is pretty sizeable, with many gardens within the garden. There is also  a large woodland area which is good for walks. It's been a while since I've visited, though, so the RHS Rosemoor website will be able to give you a much better overview of current highlights.

Other gardens I've enjoyed visiting include Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, Marwood Hill Gardens, and the previously mentioned Docton Mill and Gardens and Hartland Abbey and Gardens.


So that's it - my favourite places to visit in North Devon. Next on the list is Lundy island. What are your favourite places to visit in North Devon? I'd love to hear your recommendations, especially those off the beaten track.


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10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon

Pashley Manor Gardens

I hope you will excuse a little flashback to spring, even though summer is blooming all around us. I had the pleasure of visiting the stunning Pashley Manor Gardens back in April, the day before their tulip festival started. Now I'm not usually one for formal gardens (I prefer mine wild and rambling) but I was bowled over by the beauty of the gardens and grounds. Pashley Manor Gardens are located on the border between East Sussex and Kent and are in the middle of the most beautiful countryside.

I don't think I've ever seen a more impressive display of tulips - every colour and variety you could imagine (100 different varieties in fact and 25,000 blooms in total). And everything was so amazingly neat and tidy - we saw lots of gardeners trimming and tidying everywhere, making sure everything was perfect for opening day.

My absolute favourite area, that I returned to many times over our visit, was the pool. Hard to believe this is in the UK! If I ever had the good fortune to stay in a place like this, I don't think I would ever leave the poolside. That blue looked so inviting.....

There were lots of beautiful statues dotted around the grounds, carefully placed to relate to one another, their surroundings and to lead the eye to the most impressive views.

I think my absolute favourites were the pool ladies...although the deer came a close second....

The Manor House is pretty impressive too. They serve drinks and food from the verandah, allowing you to enjoy a very beautiful view. The house is cloaked in wisteria - I bet it's looking amazing now!

I think I did quite a few circuits of the gardens, trying to drink everything in. Luckily there are lots of very well placed seats for you to rest, accompanied by the most beautiful birdsong. It really is a most relaxing place.

I think it's definitely worth a return visit - it must be looking completely different already. I believe the roses are now the stars of the show. For more information, please visit the Pashley Manor Gardens website.

Spring spectacular at Merriments Garden

Since we left Oxford at the end of last year I've been on the hunt for some new gardens to frequent - I need a regular dose of beautiful blooms! I'd been totally spoiled in the past by having the University of Oxford Botanic Garden on my doorstep. So I was very happy indeed to discover the beautiful Merriments Garden, near Hawkhurst and Ticehurst.

We visited twice last week and ended up joining their garden club so we can visit as many times as we like over the year - hurrah! I'm so glad we made it in time to see the blossom in all its glory. There is the most amazing cherry blossom tree over-hanging the Monet pond with a beautiful blue bridge. The petals were falling like confetti and floating in the water - it reminded me of a pointillist painting. I feel privileged to have seen it - a week later it was all gone - so precious and so fleeting...

We also timed it perfectly to see their beautiful and very colourful display of tulips, part of their "Spring Spectacular". The garden isn't huge, about 4 acres - but it's jam packed with flowers, just the way I like it. It's beautifully designed too, with so many different viewpoints and gardens within gardens, places to sit and ponder, and lots of curves. It gets a big thumbs-up from me!

There were so many different kinds of tulips and every colour imaginable - it really was a feast for the eyes. I loved the combinations - lots of ideas to take away for my garden at home...

These ones reminded me of raspberry ripple ice-cream!

But it's not just tulips - there were so many other flowers out too, including the most delicate fritillaries. And lots of blossom. Please excuse the gratuitous photos - I just adore blossom and can't get enough of it! We sat and picnicked under the beautiful pink number below in the car park field. Is there anything finer then picnicking under blossom filled blue skies? I really don't think so!

Oh and I mustn't forget the Magnolias, looking glorious in the sunshine.

My apologies for such a picture-heavy post - and believe me, there are many more! If you are anywhere near this beautiful garden, I highly recommend a visit - I can't wait to go back in a month or so. If you are in the area, there is another lovely garden nearby in Ticehurst you must see, which also has a tulip festival on at the moment and is looking rather spectacular: Pashley Manor Gardens. But I'll save those photos for another day and another post!

Autumn glorious autumn ~ Part 2

I enjoyed a fabulous wander around the stunningly beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum at the end of October as my traditional birthday treat - there really is no better place to be at this time of year :)

My favourite bit without a doubt is the Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum - I just adore Japanese Maples. We started here and returned for some Blythe shots. It really is quite tricky to find the right spot to prop them up that's at the right height and supportive enough to hold them (their heads are very heavy!). It was VERY muddy so I was paranoid that they would take a tumble into the mud. Luckily the worst that happened was a bit of green slime on their tights ;)

I love the photo below of me, taken by my lovely husband. This was how I was to be found much of the time - head in the trees, searching for the prettiest leaves and the prettiest light! My favourite lens for autumn leaves is my 100mm macro lens - I love to focus on the details with a soft background. Low light levels make holding the camera steady pretty challenging, though, so inevitably lots of photos ended up in the bin!

Most of the leaves here are now on the ground, so these photos will have to help carry me through until springtime - I really don't like everything bare and brown! Nature really does put on a pretty spectacular seasonal finale.

As always, you can find more photos on Flickr in my Autumn Glory Album. I've also uploaded several of these images to my Red Bubble shop in case you are interested in cards or prints. There's currently a 15% discount on Wall Art (posters and prints in a range of sizes and formats) and Home Decor (cushions) with code RBGIFTS15 which is valid until the end of Thursday 13 November.